Existing-home sales back down from recent peak

Although existing-home sales enjoyed a four-year peak in August, September saw a slight decline of 1.9% in the amount of homes sold, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing-home sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million, compared to a downwardly revised 5.39 million in August. However, September's numbers still mark a 10.7% improvement over year-ago figures of 4.78 million.

Of these, single-family home sales were down 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million, compared to 4.75 million in August. 

Home prices managed to strengthen in September despite the downward progress, with tightened inventory driving prices up. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $199,200 in September, up 11.7% year-over-year.

“Affordability has fallen to a five-year low as home price increases easily outpaced income growth,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Expected rising mortgage interest rates will further lower affordability in upcoming months. Next month we may see some delays associated with the government shutdown.”

Nationally, the sharpest home price increases over 2012 were in Detroit, Las Vegas and Sacramento.

Distressed homes made up 14% of September sales, compared to 12% in August (a five-year low). The NAR reports that this is another contributing factor in median price growth.

Total housing inventory was virtually unchanged at 2.21 million existing homes available for sale -- a 5.0-month supply compared to August's 4.9-month supply.

NAR president Gary Thomas said that though the effects of the government shutdown were not apparent in September's report, next month's sales may suffer from the various impacts of the 16-day ordeal, including delays in tax transcripts needed for approval of mortgage loans.

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